You shouldn’t have

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You probably should have. Or you should have tried harder.

“Oh, you shouldn’t have!”

Well, either they really shouldn’t have bothered, because it’s such a terrible present, or they really should have, because it’s really great. Either way, the message is wrong. Don’t bother next time: either rude or inaccurate.

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Lobster Thursday

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Lobster night, like any other kind of night, is not a thing.

Thursday night is lobster night at a nearby branch of one of the UK’s wearisome chain dining brands. Which is great if you want a meals-on-wheels catering version of your favourite lobster dish, on a Thursday.

Lobster night appeals to people whose lobster preference gets the better of them on Thursdays, those who know what they want to eat on a specific day of the week, and fans of lobster who aren’t really all that bothered about how it tastes.

Having lobster available on a Thursday isn’t going to swing it for me. The thought, “I really fancy some lobster” rarely crosses my mind – and hardly ever on a Thursday – and I doubt that I could gather together a group of potential diners who’d want to join me to pay for second-rate lobster even if it did. Even if I found a fellow lobster fan, I reckon their preferred day would be a Friday or Saturday.

It’s a bit like when pubs do a curry night or steak night. Why would you go to a pub for a generic, under-spiced curry when there are hundreds of curry houses that do it better?

So I have a better idea. Why not just put lobster on the menu, and then I can choose it whenever I want? No need for special nights or promotions, or everyone eating the same thing. I might see lobster on the menu on, say, a Tuesday and decide on a whim to have some. Imagine that. It would operate a bit like a restaurant, with a list of things that can be ordered, sometimes changing and with the occasional ‘special’. Or they could make all the specials lobster-based. I wouldn’t mind.

Lobster night is pretty much the most niche pub-restaurant promotion ever devised, which is why it’s not a thing.

Sweetcorn cobettes

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I can’t think of a more irritating word.

Sainsbury’s seem to think that it is acceptable practice to cut a cob of corn in two, hike up the price by 50%, offer a version with wooden skewers acting as handles and then flog them at “2 for £2.50” as if getting 2 units of straightforward vegetable was ever worth forking out more than a few pence.

But all of the above are just standard, accepted things that supermarkets will do. It may be annoying but everyone goes along with it.

Then they decide to call these small pieces of sweet corn “cobettes”. And that’s where they cross the line. Try saying cobette to yourself a few times and tell me if you aren’t filled with self-loathing or a strong desire to spray paint a really rude word on the nearest supermarket.

Cobettes don’t exist on restaurant menus. Nigella and Jamie Oliver never called for a dish to be served with cobettes. There was never a need for a word that means ‘a cob of corn meanly cut in two’. Don’t people have knives any more?

They can’t be allowed to succeed with cobette, otherwise ten years from now we will be looking in horror as the aisles are filled with carrotettes and half-sized pieces of spare broccoli that have been rescued from their rotting other halves and renamed floretettes.

But it turns out that it’s not entirely Sainsbury’s fault. Who invented the cobette? KFC, that’s who. The nation’s leading supermarket is actually taking its lead on product names from the dirtiest take away on the high street.

So where is Sainsbury’s on using the word ‘zinger’ to reference anything mildly-spiced; ‘popcorn’ to mean little bits of product swept off the factory floor and deep-fried; ‘rancher salad’ to mean ‘things that nobody ever buys’?

Absolutely nowhere, yet. But watch as supermarkets progressively adopt the language of the take-away. They should be stopped. But they’ll all follow Asda.

Cobette. Cobette. Cobette. Right, I’m ready to kill.

Happy holidays!

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The corporate email arrives, making its annual plea for you to have a happy holidays (which aren’t a ‘thing’).

It’s not so difficult, even for the grumpiest of us: “Merry Christmas and a happy New Year”.

But corporate wellwishers, and so many Americans, can’t just make that simple wish: they must instead be misguidedly inclusive and wish everyone happy holidays, a term so generic and seemingly inclusive because, well, every religion and none is having a bit of a knees-up in December because the weather is so shocking.

It’s exactly this sort of pointless reworking of standard ‘things’ that briefly gave us Birmingham’s ‘Winterval’, and it’s a short step from there to the rabid, frothing, hatstand leader columns in the Daily Express denouncing an imagined political-correctness-gone-mad around a central unfounded claim that “Muslims are trying to ban Christmas” and so on.

Of course the subtle message behind ‘happy holidays’ is ‘work even harder when you get back’.

The year may be different. But your inbox will be just as full.

So. Happy holidays can go to hell. Festive-up yourself. Merry Christmas.

Dunking your own teabag

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If I’m paying two quid, why do I have to dunk my own tea bag?

Take away tea used to be made for you. Now you are provided with a kit – some hot water already in the cup – no opportunity to put the milk in first – a tea bag on a string, some sugar, some plastic pots of UHT milk and a wooden stirrer to minimise the environmental impact rather less than the milk pots do.

There is a 20p step up from a small to a medium to a large tea, even though all it requires is a bit more water and an inexplicable question about whether you need a second tea bag. A second one! Then again tea is now sold in such huge and vulgar quantities that a single large tea is about the size of a pot of tea for 4 in Betty’s of Harrogate. At least in Betty’s you qualify for some ersatz Victorian subservience, in a tattoo-concealing pinafore, rather than being handed a handful of tea-making paraphernalia and told to get on with it yourself.

With take away tea, all the tea production effort is outsourced to the consumer, meaning that 20p or 40p extra for a bit more hot water and a slightly bigger cup is very largely pure profit. No doubt they’d tell me it’s all part of the ‘experience’.

Given that good tea is quite simple to make and standardise – broadly the right colour and it’ll be fine; too dark and it’s utterly undrinkable – I really shouldn’t have to stand there constructing my own drink. I would offer full customer loyalty to any provider who realised that having to dunk my own tea bag is not a thing.

Going to the gym

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You probably pay £75 per month and still never go.

Around the time that ‘Friends’ persuaded everyone that constantly going to coffee shops was a thing, resulting in the invasion of Starbucks, the rise of Costa, and the transformation of the price of coffee from about 50p to somewhere north of £2.50, everyone decided that they ought to join a gym.

Gym-going before and after work, and the wearisome prospect of a “workout” at the drop of a hat, became the all too familiar claim of absolutely everyone.

But was anyone ever going to a gym, other than for the introductory session and the first, keen, solo session after it? No they weren’t. They were simply sucked into a subscription culture, forking out fifty quid a month for the feeling that they could go and run on a treadmill if they really wanted to, but since it was so cold outside they were quite simply not going to do that ever.

Like the pyramid-selling schemes that Esther Rantzen used to uncover, gym membership relied on everyone secretly colluding in their non-attendance whilst continuing to introduce new members and continuing to pay their own membership fees. Still, it’s nice to belong to a club, and maybe joining a gym offers a certain sense of belonging. A bit like being a train spotter.

A hardy few gymnasia brands persist, and hotels still trade on having a gym, albeit of the preening, pampering kind with a sauna and masseur and a range of skin care products rather than the sort with dumb bells and a boxing ring.

As an alternative, I invite you to join my virtual gym. You pay me just £40 per month to join, and you are not compelled to turn up. In any case, I have no gym equipment, but you won’t need it anyway because, like a real gym, you won’t attend. If you do, you’re welcome to run around my back garden until you get bored or – better still – decide to go for a jog in the open air, for which I won’t charge any additional fees.

Because going to the gym isn’t a thing. It’s just what the leisure corporates would have you believe you ought to do before you pay them another £3 for a coffee. Just like Joey from Friends.